Wisps Of Steam

The heels of my tired shoes clatter discordantly
On the newly flagged pavements
As I walk the streets that bred generations of chain makers.
Above, the clouds are grey and heavy
Like the leaden pall of smoke
That once engulfed the demolished terraced houses.

Little remains of the brick wall that surrounded the barren garden
And enfolded a crumbling chain shop
With soot-blackened hearths and blackbird nested chimneys.
A bellows, holed and discarded, rested by the wall,
While coiled in a corner lay a discarded snake skin
Of heavy russet and brown and grey links.

In my mind's eye I see the red-hot coals
And hear the clash of iron on iron.
I feel the cold embers crunch underfoot.
Involuntarily I flinch as death-dealing sparks fly by
And sizzle to their deaths in a bucket of oily, rainbow water.
A faint wisp of steam marks their passing.

I see vague figures through the mists of time,
Fathers and sons, brothers and cousins,
Standing beside each other,
All wearing be-grimed waistcoats and thick, protective aprons.
Their rolled shirtsleeves show thews
That could lift one, two and three-handed hammers.

Each long, gruelling day takes its toll
Leaving another indelible mark on their faces.
Sweat beads sparkle in the light of the burning coals
Like exquisite jewels scattered over a soiled landscape.
But in a flash the magic is gone, and grubby runnels
Are wiped by weary, calloused hands.

They stand before me, these men, bent and fatigued,
Old before their time,
But barely discernible and hidden by the fog of ignorance,
Are women and children,
Their tiny hammers making tiny chain,
The unexpectedness of it takes my breath away.

These are the men and women and children
Who helped to forge an Empire
Now, they're nameless and forgotten and I wonder:
Am I the only one to notice their wisps of steam?

Written by
Alison R Reed

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A. T. Page Aaminah Adam Sedgwick Barnard Al Daffern Alfred A. Cole Alfred Moss Alicia Stawicki Alison R Reed Andrew Clayton Andrew Simon Angela Garratt Annie Colenso Symons Anonymous Anzel Mahmood Arthur Brockhurst Arthur Cyril Harrison Bryan Griffin Carolyn Bayliss Catherine Gorvin Catherine Wilson Christine Beebee Clifton L Pinnock Daisy Daniel J Robertson David Calcutt Dee Howell Dennis Wright Dolores Grant Dom Donna Hill Dorothy Pattison Edward F. Joyce Elaine Taylor Elijah Stanley Elisha Slater Emily Lea Ermine Campbell Francesca Jackson Francis Paul Palmer Frank George Layton Frederic W. Willmore George Cotterell George Evans Gloria Reid Harold M. Barrows Harold Parry Herbert Bennett Hubert Deacon Harrison Ian Henery James A. Aldis Jennifer Beth Blake Jessie Lee Shannon Joan Warner Joanne Kendrick Joanne Shaw John Kilbourn John MacMillan Joseph Dixon Josey Durrant Josiah Turner Karoline Bobrowski Katie Hughes Leandra Gebrakedan M P Houslin Madeline Hindsley Manolita Margaret Lampitt Mark Bassett Martin Hughes Mary Darwall Matilda Cotterell Matthew Wells Maurice Birch Mercedes Michael Cronogue Mr Aitch Natalie Ivanova Neth Brown Oscar Roszczenko Otis Francis Paul Christopher Walton Paulina Kisiecka Peace the Poet Peter Wilkes R. M. Lockley Richard Archer Richard Leigh Richard Worrall Rio Lecointe Rob Edwards. Robert Curtis Robert Wlodarz Sharon Harlow Sir Henry John Newbolt Skiz1 Stuart Williams Supa MC Terence John Mills The Rev. A. Hampden Lee The Rev. Alexander Gordon The Rev. John H. Robison W. H. Robinson Yasmin Fatima Zebideejones

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